Tools of the Trade

by Timothy Yocum

I have found, in my tenure at playing (a mere 5 years) this greatest of all games, that any advantage, in any setting, whether it be thru a glib tongue, a brilliant maneuver, or the wonders of modern technology, is to be taken advantage of, as long as it's legal.

The world of computers has opened a whole new realm of Diplomatic intrigue and treachery. While those who hack, and send poorly faked black press are laughed and scoffed at as amateurs and even lawless rule breakers, a well planned and legal use of computers in a PBEM game can do wonders for your game.

I was first introduced to the game by the Rochester Wargamer's Association and Guild's (RWAG) regular core of Dip players. RWAG makes its headquarters at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY, a university I attended for three of the best(?) years of my life.

My first game, I landed Turkey. And who should end up being Austria but one Mark Mulik, a fellow RIT'r whom you all know. Any of you who know Mark know he has a very glib tongue, especially to a novice player. I fell under his influence quickly, as Italy failed to show up in our PBEM game and so we played six-man. With Turkey and Italy not a threat, Austria gins quite nicely, especially when France is being played by the best RIT player, Steve. Steve has a simple plan of action: He will be your friend, unless you betray him in which he will make sure you die, taking himself down with you if necessary. England, played by Mike, did this almost immediately, so Steve turned all of his attention on England (Mike). This gave Austria all of Italy.

As I was new, I had no problems with this (what a FOOL!) and I began to invade Russia (another friend whose name I cannot for the life of me remember!). Austria loved this and helped me. Now, being the treacherous bastard that I am, I promised a lot and gave nothing. Or did I?

I promised Austria (Mark) to support him here, and support him there, and I never did. Mark still profited however, because I did not understand the idea of keeping my gains. I, through various NMR's and shrewed maneuvers, walked an army from Turkey all the way up to Norway! (From this came a quote from Steve, now famous in the RIT Dip Circles: "When I see the Turks in Norway!" [Equivalent to "When hell freezes over!"]) Unfortunately, Austria walked right up behind me, as I made no provision for guarding my newly gained territory. And so Austria grew.

But this tale is regarding France mostly. While Austria gained unopposed in the East, France was battling it out in the North. Germany, played by Andy, Steve's friend, and automatic ally, and who is also very good, had gotten kind of tired of the game. So, since England (Steve) was in charge of one of RIT's computer systems, he simply made an account in Germany's name (Andy) and began playing both nations, as the moderator could not tell that it was not in truth Andy!

Well...when the game was all said and done, the SC counts were Russia: 1 (Berlin), Germany: 1 (Kiel), France: 16, Austria 16. I had been eliminated when France and Austria devised a scheme to dupe me into letting Austria come through my effective stalemate bottlenck. I fell for it, and was soon removed.

France and Austria battled it out for two years and decided to call it a draw. It was then that France revealed he had been playing Germany for several years. Well, Austria (Mark) was ticked! He, to this day, declares himself the winner of that game due to England's cheat (though he admires Steve for the slime!)

The second greatest slime to strike RIT's Dip game was devised, planned, and executed solely by yours truly. I believe it to be even better, as it did not upset the balance of the game, and, in truth -- due to an ally's reluctance to perform properly -- it fell through.

By this time, and before the Judge system was so widely recognized, Steve (France in previous game) had written up a VMS adjudicator. To run this system all you had to do was get yourserlf a copy of it, and set it up in your account. Simple program, it took your orders as you sent them after running the program in the Master's account, and adjudicated when the Master told it to. Our deadlines at the time were Tuesdays at 4 o'clock. In this game, Mark Mulik was the Master, I was Russia, Andy (Germany in the previous game) was Austria, Steve (France in the previous game) was England, and my good friends Tony (Turkey), Dave (Italy), and my roomate Bill (Germany) were also playing.

The four of us (Germany, Russia, Italy and Turkey) knew that Austria and England were the aces and would likely ally. They claimed this was not true, but in the end, due to mutual necessity or divine planning, it ended up that way. We decided to take out Austria fast.

Austria (Andy) was willing to work with me. However, I betrayed him for two successive years, unsucessfully. He then stated he would be unwilling to work with me unless we were to meet at the Library at 3:50, and enter our moves in in front of each other. I agreed to this, and then sat about trying to see how I could possibly deceive him.

In a little bit I conceived the devious plan. I knew that the way the adjudicator worked, it had to be executable by everyone so that we could run it. In VMS, executable means copyable. So I simply copied the adjudicator out of Mark's account and set it up in my own. The way the adjudicator also worked, was to put the "moves files" the immediate directory of the adjudicator program. Thus, moves put into Mark's adjudicator would go into Mark's directory, whereas those put into my new copy of the adjudicator would go into mine.

I mailed Mark to see if this was "legal." He cracked up laughing and said he loved it. I then put in my real moves into his adjudicator, the real game. As we all just set up aliases to run the program (ever trtied to run a VMS program from someone else's account? Not fun!), I simply set up another alias for my version of the Adjudicator.

I then told my allies what to do to defeat Austria. Dave (Italy) did not like the idea, and kept balking. He was critical to the maneuvers I had set up, and so I just prayed he'd do what I asked.

3:50 Tuesday afternoon came. I met Andy in the Library, very nervous. I was so afraid he'd figure it out, or demand to see my aliases or something. He didn't. He sat down, used his adjudicator-running alias to put in his orders as we had agreed on, and then I put mine in, as we agreed, but in my version of the game. He and I logged off and sat there until 4, after which it was not legal to put in moves....we then walked out of the library, back to our own lives, waiting for the moves to go through.

In about half an an hour I got on and received the moves. Sure enough, my truly desired treacherous moves went through, and Austria was caught, pants down! Alas, Italy did not do what was necessary to take advantage of this, and thus my moves all bounced! The most perfect scheme, ruined by an "ally."

I got a second message soon after from Mark laughing his head off. Andy (Austria) had written him, accusing him of cheating, and delaying the deadlines until I could change my moves. Mark explained what had happened, and a thoroughly irate Andy vowed never to trust me again.

Well the game went on, Italy (Dave) proved to be useless, and Tony was forced to quit. Austria's ex-roomate took over Tony's position (Turkey) and together they annhilated me in the south. Germany and I had taken on England effectively, till he conned me into betraying my roommate (the look on his face was priceless!) and then conning Germany to go after me, just when we had him crippled. Oops! I learned many things in that game...never count on your ally being the player to remain in the game...expect replacements and act accordingly, and don't betray a sure ally when your opponent is crippled.

I miss the old crew. We had good games, and it is still fun to play against Mark with whom, to this day, I have never been able to do much the way of long-term alliances (though we have one going right now...but I worry about how long that's gonna last).

Timothy D. Yocum

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.